White Elephant For Sale

19 Oct

Everyone has heard of Garage Sales, Tag Sales, Swap n Shops, and White Elephant Sales.  The purpose of these advertised and coordinated events is to rid yourself of items that you no longer want. 

Perhaps it’s that conch shell, that is decorated with a Florida Beach scene complete with palm tree as the center piece, hand painted inside.  So hard to clean the dust out of the deep recesses of the shell.  Remember, you just had to have it when trudging from one souvenir shop to another, on a one hundred degree day, during that nineteen ninety-five vacation.  The sun must have boiled your brain.  It was so00 different.  Yeah, that will be a goer!

What about the size six, gold lame` gown, worn for your cousin Louisa’s wedding?  Never mind that you are now a size sixteen.  When was the last time you saw gold lame` at an afternoon wedding.  Let’s disregard Russo’s on the Bay for the sake of this point.  Someone might buy it if you change that $20. price tag to $2.  Halloween is just around the corner.  The neighbor’s kid will don an orange fright wig, pin on the gown, wha la, Trick or Treat.

Swap and Shop is another form of bargain hunting.  This is when you bring all your treasured junk down to the basement of the Church, Synagogue, or Elementary School, and trade it for the treasured junk of the other bargain hunters.  You don’t reduce the amount of clutter in your home, but it someone else’ clutter and you can enjoy it for a time.  Some are wonderous buys.  You’ve heard one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  That is true.  Didn’t you always yearn for a six-foot wooden giraffe to grace the corner of the den?  By the way, you don’t always have to swap your stuff for theirs.  In a swap and shop you can actually pay with cash for that giraffe.

Tag Sales are usually the contents of a home.  Not a bad way to decorate your own house on a shoe string.  People sell their stuff because they are moving out-of-state, downsizing, or a family member has passed on.  The best deals are divorce, tag sales.  Often the prices are low to spite a mate.  Great discounts on golf clubs, or fairly new bedroom sets.

Lets talk White Elephant Sales.  This is an old term, but still used in certain circles.   It is really the same idea as all of the above, but the origin of White Elephant sums up why we, as a society, must use caution.                                        A white elephant in 19th century Thai mural painting

A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost (particularly cost of upkeep) is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam (now Thailand) were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious, in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered to be without use or value.

The term derives from the sacred white elephants kept by Southeast Asian monarchs in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. To possess a white elephant was regarded (and is still regarded in Thailand and Burma) as a sign that the monarch reigned with justice and power, and that the kingdom was blessed with peace and prosperity. The tradition derives from tales which associate a white elephant with the birth of the Buddha, as his mother was reputed to have dreamed of a white elephant presenting her with a lotus flower, a symbol of wisdom and purity, on the eve of giving birth.  Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant from a monarch was simultaneously both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred and a sign of the monarch’s favour, and a curse because the animal had to be retained and could not be put to much practical use, but cost a significant amount to maintain.

Next time you go bargain hunting, make sure you don’t bring home a White Elephant.

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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


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